Bowl season is a bit of a different animal these days. Over the past several seasons, we’ve seen a growing trend of NFL prospects skipping these postseason matchups to guard against injury. Skipping the bowl game also allows them to get a head start on prep for All-Star events and the NFL Combine.
Tennessee’s bowl opponent, Purdue, has a couple of NFL prospects in the first round conversation this season. Defensive end George Karlaftis and wide receiver David Bell declared for the draft shortly after the bowl matchup was announced, and now both have decided not to play against Tennessee in the Music City Bowl.
“They will not play,” Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm confirmed.
Obviously, both were a huge part of Purdue’s success this season. Karlaftis, a junior, registered ten tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks this season. Bell, also a junior, put up 1,286 yards and six scores for the Boilermakers this season — a key cog in a pretty good offense.
“I’m always gonna give my opinion,” Brohm said. “I like for guys to finish what they started and continue to try and prove themselves and improve their stock and I think anytime you got a chance to play a really good opponent, especially in a bowl game when it’s the only game on TV, if you play well, things can can benefit you to a great degree.”
“I understand the position they’re in,” Brohm continued. “With all of our players, we want to communicate what we think. Obviously, they hear other opinions and other sides of the story and then they weigh that and do what’s best for them. But we’re gonna support both those guys. They’ve done a tremendous job for us. Great ambassadors of the program, performed at a high level and really have a bright future.”
To this point, Tennessee has just one player sitting out. Senior cornerback Alontae Taylor declared for the draft after accepting his bid to the Senior Bowl and opted to skip the bowl game.
The news from Purdue pushed Tennessee out to an even larger favorite on Monday, per DraftKings Sportsbook. The Vols are now favored by 4.5 points after opening as three point favorites last week.
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See DraftKings.com/sportsbook for details.